A Coarse, Cacophonous, Compelling 'Cabaret' In New Haven

June 26, 2018, by Christopher Arnott- "The newish New Haven small-theater ensemble The Harpers is doing “Cabaret” with a bare-minimum (and half-dressed) nine-person cast. The actors double as the band, playing piano, violin, melodica, a small trap drum, cymbals, washboard, trombone and a slew of kazoos and ukuleles. It’s a rasping hoot of a show, deconstructing sacred musical theater values and crassly dramatizing the breakdown of society and government. This scrappy, low-rent production takes “Cabaret” to the streets. There are many deliberately off-key and out-of-step moments. Some songs are shouted rather than sung. The result can be coarse, abrasive and a little bit brilliant. This is all happening in Lyric Hall, a beautifully renovated 50-seat theater space in the back end of an imposing white building on Whalley Avenue in New Haven’s Westville neighborhood. A century ago, as the West Rock Theater, the venue offered silent movies and vaudeville acts. Since reopening as Lyric Hall in 2010, it has been used for concerts, cabaret revues, and an array of theater shows, from the local history-based troupe A Broken Umbrella to the out-of-town try-out of “Long Time Gone,” a theatrical tribute to Bob Dylan. The Harpers has recently been designated the resident theater company at Lyric Hall. The company’s mission statement states that it makes “music theater at the intersection of fine and folk art,” that is “risk-taking, community-driven and socially conscious,” using “a do-it-yourself ethic rooted in the intimacy of oral tradition...”

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